That’s my takeaway today from international media. I don’t own this quote. I have borrowed the idea for my own contemplation in this private space of mine where I don’t have readers. So please don’t give it the plagiarist tag.
I can cite quite a few political and economic developments/fall outs owing to this so-called perception of popularity. And then there is the timing. Ruling governments do advance the general elections if the going is good for them to cash in on their reigning popularity or perhaps the perceived popularity among masses. They probably bank their decision on flash midterm poll wins and local Panchayat (civil body) election seats. Media role also cannot be ruled out. Media invariably become mouthpiece for those in power projecting a false reality with their own opinion polls, exit polls, expert panel discussions etc. The center is always on the spotlight. Sometimes this can backfire as it happened when the BJP government called for early elections in 2004, a good six months ahead of the schedule by December. The Lok Sabha and Rajya sabha (lower and upper houses of parliament) went to polls simultaneously in phases in the April and May months (as it is always in India – in some six or seven phases considering our geographical extent and the mammoth 1.3 billion population – we are the world’s largest democracy) that the ruling party shockingly lost on very narrow margin. Their record was unblemished in that 4.5 year period and they were riding high on the popularity wave. The exit polls and opinion polls were in their favour. Finally the election fiasco was pinned on anti-the incumbency factor. Had the 2004 general elections in India been held by December, BJP could have won the elections hands down. Ironically their constructive term had been rudely cut short by their own making. It was the very first time in modern Indian history that a non Congress government completed a full term at office at the center. The surprise Congress win put the nation’s oldest party back in charge for the next ten years. BJP finally returned to power only in 2014. In 2019, they were reelected to power.
Opinion polls and exit polls are but about a selected sample and they cannot be used to extrapolate general predictions about a future outcome. This is especially true of India where the electorates are huge. A slice of sample is hardly representative of a vastly varied and diverse and populous electorate typical of the Indian subcontinent. There are variations to consider and it is entirely possible that the sample collected and analyzed could be that standard deviation. However, in favour of TRP ratings, the media houses miss this simple logic. No wonder their projections are skewed and are drastically different from ground reality. The media did predict rout of the BJP once again in 2019 that the party went on to win on a massive scale unprecedented in history.
There is this take on our EVMs, the electronic voting machines which have come under introspection. It is ironically always the opposition that is weary of the EVMs. When Congress was at the center, the BJP blamed their losses on EVMs. Now when the BJP is at the center, the congress party would like to attribute their dismal rout on the EVMs that they found to be faultless and defended when they were elected to power. INdia’s population makes it advisable that the EVMs are operational in our general elections. Battalions of election officers are enrolled all across the country and the actual election exercise in India starts two years prior to the election date. Mooted by the Election commission of India, the classroom hands-on training for official staff kicks off months earlier, and the materials and the EVMs are prepared and plans devised with a roadmap for the upcoming elections finalized accordingly. Its a gigantic national exercise worth a Phd for interested political studies candidates. I would recommend foreign journalists to study our case with our government written consent. Last elections in 2019 were held in seven phases over two whole months for both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha across our 29 states and 6 union territories. I have been casting my electronic ballot for over 20 years now. Its a great indigenous democratic exercise that India has perfected that even some first world nations have lost. Its not that easy to rig the EVMs and there are foolproof checks at every stage to rule out manipulation. Finally the manual voting is punched for the electronic vote that can be counterchecked for rigging if any party contests results. Even I have to agree that no one hundred percent foolproof system may exist when it comes to voting process. The EVM debate hots up every year before elections and there are the two sides for and anti EVMs as expected.
Sometimes the masses are taken for granted when it comes to their voting preferences or rather prejudices, which will not serve any purpose. Today in India, even the lowest middle classes or the BPL (below poverty line) families are politically aware and know the differences between the Lok sabha/Rajya sabha polls for the lower and upper houses of parliament as against the State assembly polls. You can see the way the public vote for the two. When it comes to Lok sabha elections, the masses vote for a strong center sometimes bypassing state interests. When it comes to state elections, they go for performing governments. Linguistic and regional politics take a natural precedence. If you are non performer, you will stand to lose your constituency in reelections. Modi is reelected not because of his BJP party or Hindutva alliance. Modi is winning because he is good for India and he has pushed for economic development raising our living standards. He has passed on benefits to rural India, the business community, to the common man and the industrial sector all at the same time never neglecting any quarter. Typically you can see the anti-government or pro-west or the left media focusing on nonperforming areas whereas his track records in reality may speak of a different story.
Perception of popularity breeding popularity sounds interesting! This is especially true of conspiracy theories. Brainwashing was happening all around in India during and after demonetization and GST introduction that without a shred of statistical evidence, based on media reports and on the rants and raves of the influential and opulent elite stashing black money, the public who willingly bore the brunt were made to wonder whether they were put to suffering to serve vested interests. The sacrifices of the common Indian on the street in this phase of time was phenomenal. Grudgingly the aam aadmi chugged along serpentine queues until the stroke of midnight for those freshly minted notes of currency in lieu of the old rendered useless overnight. The timeframe for tendering the old notes back to the reserve bank in exchange through commercial banks was limited. The lower middle classes I spoke to were happy participants in the exercise not grumpy always as made out by the media. The familiar leftists were on the discussion forums downplaying all that was received well in reality by the general janata. I am seeing how GST works only too very well and can recall the stiff opposition it met with. Now for whole of India, just one point tax and no more queuing up in the borders for our trucks: remember we are a 29 state country with trailers running on all-India permit. This saves time, precious oil, manpower and over all that double billing or double taxing.
As in Biden’s case, actions speak louder than words. The benefits realized will outweigh the criticisms.
Which is why I have totally stopped reading the Indian print media and don’t watch our mass media anymore. I directly discount our social media propaganda posts as well. Like fellow citizens I watch for translation of bills and/or legal statutes and accords and pacts into actual benefits for the public. I watch for the social development indicators. I will not gauge my country with the imported Audis. I measure my country with the locally made drab Ambassador which is the true indicator of my nation’s economic health. I don’t go by the stockmarket boom that can have no correlation with actual industrial growth and output. I go by the bonuses dispersed based on quarterly results booked by an FMCG corporation for instance. I go by the books. I look for the export quantum of wheat over imports. I keep tab with the varying interest rates. I watch for the infrastructural developments and how that directly affects my life. Metrorail saves the day for us and any government that mooted the project can hope for reelection. Not surprisingly the next state government is only adding more routes and further many kilometers to the viable project to win the popularity match. Today in India, whichever party is to form the government at the center or state level, they have got to perform. We cannot rule out bribes and red tape entirely from my country but the strong governments see to that this social corruption does not weaken the momentum of their economic engine.
You don’t have to be a literate to factor in the social indictors into your assessment methods to decide on who to vote for. I have seen how the mind of the blue collar workers functions. They are far smarter. They are even better politically aware. Nobody voted for BJP in Tamil Nadu, but the masses all got the Modi app in their phones and have subscribed to Modi health insurance! My maid’s mother received 40-60 radiations without paying a single paisa thanks to the state-central govt sops (still the woman died, can’t help) with the Modi health card and a driver’s aging father got a cardiac bypass surgery done for free at the state of art govt multispecialty hospital in Chennai with the same Modi card. The opinion on BJP is fast changing in the state. There is almost no Indian citizen today without at least a zero balance bank account introduced by Modi and the Aadhar ID is a great leveler.
Perform or Perish: now this is the slogan in India. This applies to any government that gets elected to office. Its not about Modi or BJP or Congress or even the State governments. Corrupt state governments are thrown out in the very next round of general elections. Perceptions can persist but practicality is different.
I record my gratitude to my Journalist-writer guru who is a big influence on my spectrum of thoughts. I am a housewife and I write for just me myself, still it counts. I am interested in learning anything and everything and this is an offshoot subject from mainstream that has relevance to today’s political-economic scene we have here in India.
A juicy bit of news: General elections date are not fixed just like that in India. Astrological consultations are done in alignment with the birth star of the leader of the political party to ascertain which date is auspicious to contest elections and from which constituency from whatever direction. It reminds of me of how Mahathir Mohammad of Malaysia used to fix election dates in consultation with astrologers in Malaysia as the locals would tell us. Mahathir’s grandfather was Kerala muslim who migrated to Malaysia. As far as Indian general elections are concerned, more than anything, believe me or not, the kundalini (birthchart or horoscope) of the PM candidate plays a vital role in deciding dates and even the winning of the polls!